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African Americans and Chicago’s Criminal Courts, 1896-1964 

Author: Tera Agyepong

This project examines Cook County’s municipal court system between 1896 and 1964. It pays particular attention to state criminal laws and sheds light on the kinds of local-level processes that undergirded the emergence of mass incarceration. During the Progressive era, Cook County created an extensive municipal court system—including thirty-seven civil and criminal branch courts. By 1964, an amendment to the state constitution consolidated these courts into one criminal court. This study of the evolution of Cook County Criminal Court(s) will be analyzed alongside the context of other important legal and demographic changes in Illinois.

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